Micro projects for macro impact

posted by
Colleen Dunbar,

Project Specialist,
ASU Lodestar Center

Linton Weeks wrote an article on NPR back in 2009 on microvolunteering, and he said it right: we live in a micro world. “What began with microscopes and microbiology has morphed into microeverything.” Twitter is a microblogging platform, Kayla McKinney previously discussed the trend of microgiving, and now there’s microvolunteering.

Microvolunteering is an easy, commitment-free way to give back. Volunteers can choose the projects, causes, and organizations they help, and organizations can potentially get help from numerous volunteers. It can almost be seen as a form of crowdsourcing.

How does it work?

Sparked is a project-based microvolunteering site, where nonprofit organizations “challenge” the Sparked community, and the volunteers then respond. Volunteers may offer suggestions or solutions to the challenge, or they may give a “thumbs up” to other participants’ answers – either option will help the challenging organization get the best possible solution (or solutions) to their challenge.

I am relatively new to the Sparked community, having only been an active member for a couple of months, but it’s the microvolunteering site that I am most familiar with. However, it is not the only one. Help from Home’s tag line is “Change the world in just your pyjamas!”, but they also encourage volunteers to change the world from their classroom, work, and more. They also emphasize the fact that projects take “between 10 seconds and 30 minutes” – again focusing on the ease and speed of microvolunteering. VolunteerMatch is a great tool for nonprofits to recruit volunteers, as well as for volunteers to see exactly what opportunities are available in their area. This site has two functions; the first is traditional volunteering, like making Thanksgiving food baskets for a food bank, or wrapping gifts to raise money. The second is virtual volunteering, like reviewing scholarship applications for a foundation, or guest blogging about a specific cause.